At times of national tragedy there is sadness, mourning, and a search for someone to blame. In the case of Saturday’s shootings in Tucson that should be easy: 22-year-old Jared Loughner did it, with some help from whoever sold him a semi-automatic Glock 19 hand gun with extra large magazines.
But that’s not satisfying, to blame a crazy person for something so terrible. We want to pinpoint the cause of the evil, because if we have the cause we can prevent such things from happening in the future. Many on the left want to tag Sarah Palin and Fox News with at least contributory blame.
After all, didn’t Palin post a map showing Congresswoman Gifford as a target, complete with crosshairs? (see accompanying picture from her website and try to imagine whether seeing this might lead someone to murder.) And doesn’t Fox News regularly feature right wing rants by Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck?
Palin and Fox News head Roger Ailes seemed to grant some plausibility to the connection because Palin’s PAC took down the offending map on Saturday, and on Monday Ailes announced that his network would try to cool the heated rhetoric. But their moves toward civility are reasons to honor them, not to take the actions an admission of guilt.
Our greatest political commentator, Jon Stewart, put it best in his eloquent cry from the heart on his January 10 Daily Show:
Did the toxic political environment cause this? A graphic image here? An ill-timed comment? Violent rhetoric? Those types of things? I have no f***ing idea…You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on. Crazy always seems to find a way…
It’s important for us to watch our rhetoric. It would be really nice if the rantings of crazy people didn’t actually resemble the way we talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.
The way we talk to each other on TV? “I hold them (Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh) personally responsible [for Tucson].” Or “Obama is a Kenya-born Muslim” or “Bush is a baby-killer” or “Republican health care plan is die quickly,” or “You lie” or “Second Amendment remedy.”
Ethics demands that we turn away from such uncivil language, and shun the people—especially those of our own party—who use it. And blame Tucson on Jared Loughner, at least until we have evidence of the involvement of others.
Tags: civility, Congresswoman Gifford, crosshairs, Daily Show, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Glock 19, hand gun, Jared Loughner, Jon Stewart, Kenya-born Muslim, national tragedy, Roger Ailes, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Second Amendment remedy, toxic political environment, Tucson, You lie